Exercise for PCOS is one of the major handles along with diet to observe sustained weight loss. Research indicates that diet and lifestyle changes together are the best ways to heal PCOS naturally.
In fact, right exercise for PCOS combined with suitable diet can improve the insulin resistance symptoms by as much as 80%. This is clearly, the best way to kick start your weight loss and hormone balance journey in PCOS.
Now, similar to diet; not all forms of exercise are recommended in PCOS. Even though it is such as important way to heal PCOS.
Exercise for PCOS, if done wrongly can lead to even more hormone imbalances. And for some women, it is perhaps THE reason for their PCOS symptoms.
So, let’s look into the how and why of exercise for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. What’s the best exercise for PCOS. How long, and how may times should you workout. And do you need a special plan or membership?
First Let’s Look into What and Why | Exercise for PCOS
Exercise for PCOS is about staying active and staying healthy. It’s about training your body to function better and keep it away from diseases.
Really, exercise should not be something that you do once in a while. It should be a lifestyle.
The polycystic ovarian syndrome is a lifestyle problem, and the right lifestyle should be used to tackle it.
A publication in the Asian Journal of Medicine emphasizes that “the most preferred and most effective method for treatment of PCOS is lifestyle modification.”
If you are dealing with the PCOS symptoms. Then definitely, one lifestyle modification is to adopt exercises. And not just any, but the best exercise for PCOS.
A PCOS exercise plan helps to improve the symptoms by addressing the root causes of the polycystic syndrome itself.
What does that mean?
1. You lose weight when you do the right exercise in the right way
You’ll agree that weight management is a very big struggle for patients. Weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of PCOS.
When you exercise, you lose weight. Weight loss of even 5-10% can significantly help to improve other symptoms. It means ovulation will be better, you’ll have less struggle with acne, hirsutism (facial hair), etc.
Right exercise for PCOS and keeping active will help to improve BMI (body mass index, a measure of obesity). It also helps to reduce the waistline that has been bothering you.
Now, how do you get rid of PCOS belly fat?
One way to go is to exercise. Exercising also improves metabolism.
2. Regular exercise helps to lower Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate the levels of sugar in the blood. Insulin resistance means that your body tissues are less sensitive to insulin.
Hence, you end up storing fat, struggle to lose weight, and suffer from uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
For majority of the women struggling with PCOS and excess weight; insulin resistance is the root cause. Now, here is important fact.
Regular exercise improves the sensitivity of the muscles to insulin hormone. And since our muscles are the major consumers of energy aka fat, exercise also improves your metabolism.
So, the benefits are multi-fold. You lose weight, improve the strength of your muscles, boost your energy levels, and up your metabolism!
3. Exercise promotes Detoxification and Hormone Balance
Blood carries oxygen and other nutrients around your body. It also removes waste from the body.
When the blood circulation is improved, your hormones will function better.
They will reach and attach with the body tissues, where they are needed. Hence, exercise also improves your balance of hormones.
Also, when you exercise you get rid of water soluble toxins via sweating.
4. Exercise busts the Cortisol and lowers stress levels
Exercise helps to regulate the cortisol levels and improves our sleep in the long term.
High levels of stress is a major symptom in PCOS. It further leads to problems such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
So, when your cortisol levels are balanced and you sleep well; you stay mentally balanced too.
The Best exercise for PCOS and The Worst!
The best PCOS exercise plan is the one that works for you. Remember that it is to be a lifestyle, it is something that you should be able to keep up with consistently, something that you are comfortable with.
If you do not enjoy the routine, then it is going to be like a burden that you carry about. This shouldn’t be.
It is okay to experiment with different styles but settle for one you see yourself enjoying even after months. This here is intended to serve as a guide to PCOS exercise.
So, let’s get on with it.
There are four types of exercises if you didn’t know that already.
1. Aerobics for PCOS
Aerobics are also known as cardio, in common terms. You might know it as endurance. We are saying the same thing here.
These exercises increase your breathing and heart rate. They help keep the circulatory system and lungs healthy. Really, for good health generally, you need your circulation to be top-notch, even more so in PCOS, as this will help with metabolism.
They also help to build up endurance. Why? You will see from this list of examples of aerobic exercises.
- Stair climbing
- Playing tennis or basketball
These exercises require endurance to be done effectively. You do them till you’re literally out of breath. That’s the essence: improving respiration and circulation.
You might need to be wary of aerobics in your PCOS exercise plan
Aerobic exercises really do stress you out. Running? Well, have you tried running cross-country?
If you have PCOS, then you want to keep off stress as much as possible. There is this hormone called cortisol. It is the stress hormone.
Now, PCOS itself is due to hormonal imbalances (remember insulin?).
Cortisol generally worsens hormonal imbalances when your already stressed endocrine system (the system that deals with your hormones) get stressed even further.
So, here is what we are saying.
Aerobic exercises are good. They are the main component of overall fitness programs.
However, while this group of exercises may not be the worst exercise for PCOS, they are probably not the best either.
Eshal Rose of In Fitness and In Health posted a write-up, in which she mentioned a study involving sixteen women (9 with PCOS, 7 without). For twelve weeks, these women were made to perform endurance exercises for 45-60 minutes, three times a week.
Guess what happened? In the end, the women without PCOS had lost 6.4% of their body weight, while those with PCOS were only able to lose a mere 2.3%.
On the other hand, regular cardio helps to reduce the risk of heart diseases, which are one of the long-term complications of PCOS.
So, do include them in your exercise plan. But, don’t solely depend on cardio.
2. Strength training
These exercises are aimed at building muscles. They help to keep the bones and muscles strong. As much as they might put a strain on your muscles at first, you really will love the feeling of strength that you get afterward.
Another bonus is that you might not have to depend on someone else to carry your groceries or move your furniture around for you.
How many strength training exercises do you have running in your mind now? Let’s see.
- Lifting free weights
- Use of resistance machines at the gym
- Using resistance bands, even at home.
Strength training just might be the Best Exercise for PCOS
How does strength training exercise help to manage PCOS?
The first thing is that, when you do strength training, you are building muscles. The number of muscle fibers (another way of saying muscle cells) that you have begin to increase.
That is one reason why you see bulging muscles on bodybuilders. They have more muscle cells. Another thing is that the muscle cells hypertrophy(they grow).
But weren’t we talking about PCOS? How does building muscles help my symptoms?
Here is how. Muscle cells are known to have high energy expenditure. i.e. Muscle cells burn a lot more calories than your average cell.
So, when you have more muscle cells, you can burn even more calories.
Due to the demand for more calories, you burn more sugar also.
Well, the major source of energy (that’s another word for calories) is sugar.
So, using more calories means sugar is burnt away faster. Furthermore, when you run out of sugars, the body begins to use proteins, and eventually, fats, to produce energy.
With all that happening, how won’t you lose weight?
Another benefit is that, as you have less sugar in your bloodstream, you have less insulin also. This puts you on the track to improvement.
3. Balancing exercises
These help you to improve balance, of course. They are especially important for older adults. They can help strengthen the body and prevent falls. Some examples include:
- Standing on one foot;
- Heel-to-toe walking.
4. Flexibility or stretching exercises
These are important for keeping your mobility. They can help to prevent aging diseases like arthritis.
Stretching exercises are usually static in nature. Meaning, they do not involve movement at such but help to extend the muscles that need to be worked upon. That’s why they usually added to the normal workout routine that involves movement.
Here are some examples:
- Ankle stretch
- Calf stretch
- Hamstring stretch
- Shoulder stretch
- Hip and Thigh Stretch
5. Yoga for PCOS
Yoga goes deeper, much deeper beyond the physical aspects of the body. It is both a spiritual as well as a physical healing practice. It helps you to reconcile everything. Yoga helps to find a deeper sense of calm, and definitely, relieve stress.
The following yoga asanas are recommended for PCOS:
- Bharadvaja’s Twist (Bharadvajasana)
- Butterfly pose
- Reclining butterfly pose (Suptabadhakonasana)
- Shavasana (corpse pose)
- Padma Sadhana
- Moving the grinding wheel (Chakki Chalanasana)
- Sun salutation
- Bow pose
- Cobra pose
- Superman pose
- Boat pose
These yoga asanas, when done right, can help you lose weight, find balance, and more.
A note of caution, however: when practicing yoga asanas as an exercise for PCOS, do not dwell on the poses that strain the abdominal area. They are what to avoid if you have PCOS.
Your 7 Days Plan | Exercise for PCOS
Here’s a sample plan for you to get started with exercise for PCOS. This plan is designed for those, who are just getting started with physical activity.
If you are already active, then make sure that you are not carrying out excessive exercise.
Always try to combine different exercise forms in your weekly routine. It will help you to conduct workout of different parts of your body.
This helps to build and strengthen different muscle groups and provides with overall balance.
|1||Brisk Walk for 30 mins. Keep breathing deeply through your nose. Avoid breathing through mouth at all points.|
|2||Yoga for 15 mins – Include different yoga poses such as butterfly pose, Moving the grinding wheel, Cobra pose|
4-5 cycles of Sun Salutation
10 mins of Deep Breathing exercises
|3||Brisk Walk for 30 mins. Keep breathing deeply through your nose. Avoid breathing through mouth at all points.|
|4||30-40 mins of bicycling, swimming, or brisk walking.|
Alternatively, you can do cycling motion (10 mins) in the bed while keeping your legs raised. And 10 mins of breathing exercises.
|5||Yoga for 15 mins – Include different yoga poses such as butterfly pose, Moving the grinding wheel, Cobra pose|
4-5 cycles of Sun Salutation
10 mins of Deep Breathing exercises
|6||10-20 cycles of squats|
5-10 mins of jumping jacks or skipping the rope
20 cycles of lunges
|7||Brisk Walk for 30 mins. Keep breathing deeply through your nose. Avoid breathing through mouth at all points.|
How to carry out exercise for PCOS in the right way?
The first key to doing it right is consistency. This is why there is an emphasis on settling with a regime that is convenient for you. It will be easier for you to be consistent with something that you are convenient with.
1. The frequency and duration of the exercise
Generally, the recommended duration is 150 minutes a week, at the least. This is also confirmed in the evident-based management for PCOS.
150 minutes a week translate to 30 minutes for five days. However, if you can exercise for 30 minutes all seven days a week (a total of 210 minutes), it will be even better.
But 210 minutes is a whole lot! Is it? Let’s do the maths.
210 minutes translates to 3 and a half hours.
In a week, there are 168 hours.
That is just about 2% of the whole week!
If you want to manage PCOS with exercise, then you should be able to put in the work.
You do not have to take the whole thirty minutes in a stretch for one day. You can break it into two 15-minute sessions, or three 10-minute sessions. Just make sure you ‘feel it’ and you are faithful to it.
2. The intensity of the exercise
When you are exercising for PCOS, you don’t need to become an Olympics athlete at it. Do what you need to do for your good health.
Remember that stress will increase cortisol levels and that will worsen your hormonal imbalances, leading to an aggravation of your PCOS symptoms.
Depending on the duration of your exercise, you should start light, with a warm-up. Increase in intensity as you go on. Afterward, you should have another round of light exercises.
If your session is very short (taking the 10-minute at a time for example), you might want to keep the warm-up shorter. All in all, don’t wear yourself out. If you need to contact a specialist to draft out your PCOS exercise plan, do so.
Some more Tips for Exercising the Right Way with PCOS
It is noteworthy that exercise alone can not magically remove PCOS. It helps tremendously, no doubt, but if it is not supported along with other necessary things, its effectiveness would be reduced.
1. Balance Regular Exercise with the Right PCOS Diet
Your PCOS exercise plan should go with a great PCOS diet.
You could go into the gym, or even to your backyard, and spend lots of time exercising. You burn calories and make progress. But it wouldn’t make sense if you came back and lost all that progress in your next meal!
True enough, exercise does leave you calorie-deprived. And this can cause your sugar craving to shoot up. If you do not have a PCOS diet to guide you, and you succumb to that sugar craving, you could end up in a worse state.
Exercise for PCOS should go hand-in-hand with the right diet also.
A PCOS diet plan includes:
- Slow carbs (foods with low glycemic index), e.g. whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits etc.
- Lots of fruits and vegetables and fibers too, e.g. broccoli, carrots, green leafy veggies, berries, citrusy fruits, pomegranate, apples, grapes
- Healthy fats, e.g. avocados, nuts and seeds
- Right proportions of proteins, e.g. meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, whole grains
- A high proportion of natural and unprocessed food
- Probiotic Foods that aid gut bacteria, e.g. curd, pickles, fermented foods
You should avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, soda, excess fats, vegetable oils, fast food, etc.
2. At the gym or at home?
You should have your set-up. It shows that you are taking your PCOS exercise plan seriously. If you can not set up at home, you could sign up at the local gym.
There might probably be a benefit to that. Think of what it cost you to set up the exercise station at home or to get that gym membership card. That could be a motivating factor on days when you just don’t feel like it.
But aside from that, when you have somewhere for your exercise sessions for sure, then you know there is work to be done.
It is better than, “I’ll just run to the kitchen when it’s free for a few minutes. I’ll do my exercise there today.”
3. Join a community of people also practicing exercise for PCOS
It is easier said than done to commit to an exercise regime for an extended period. Join communities of people who are going through the same thing as you. You can hold each other’s hands when it gets tough.
4. Remember it’s a lifestyle
That means that aside being faithful to your PCOS exercise, your lifestyle as a whole should be geared towards conquering PCOS. From your diet to your sleeping to the way you stress and de-stress.
- Avoid excessive stress,
- Don’t give in to your sugar cravings,
- Take care of sleep disorders if you have them. Poor sleeping can cause weight gain, which you don’t want if you have PCOS.
First steps to the best exercise for PCOS!
The first step is to have a viable plan. If you cannot draft one for yourself, you can contact a sports expert that specializes in PCOS.
OR you can also opt for Medhya Herbals Heal PCOS programme, where we take you through a 3 months of diet, exercise, and Ayurvedic treatment to heal PCOS symptoms.
Take the first step today. You can beat PCOS!
Check out Heal PCOS with Ayurveda, a holistic health programme. Receive personalized Ayurvedic treatment and step-by step guidance on diet and lifestyle to balance hormones and reverse PCOS symptoms naturally.
Now, we’d like to hear from you: have you tried to follow a weekly exercise plan? What’s your experience there? Do share with us tips that worked for you! What’s your favourite way to exercise and how do you keep on track?
Let us know about your experience in the comments section below!